Friday, September 13, 2013

Phallic Friday - why write sex?

I've just been listening to the ABC Radio National podcast of the Brisbane Writers Festival, in particular the panel with Helene Young, Amy Andrews and Sarah Wendell (which is about 75% of the way through the program below).

Here’s a link to the audio of the hour long discussion.—romance-fiction/4915208

While listening I started thinking about why I write, why romance, and why sex? Since it's Friday, I'll just answer the "Why Sex?" question and look at the others on Sunday.

Why do I write about sex?

I write to understand things, primarily. The theme I find most prevalent in everything I write is - self discovery. So that's something I'm passionate about and something I'm endeavouring to understand. How do you discover who you are? And when you do discover it, how much do you hold tight to it and how much sways with your environment (i.e. the pressures of your life be they family, friends, work, circumstances, etc)? And how much influence does environment have on your sense of self?

A large part of self discovery is sexuality.

I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family with four girls. I went to all girl schools after I was 11 years old. I played sport in all girl teams. I belonged to all girl activities, like Girl Guides. I was an adventurous tomboy compared with my sisters. We had adult male family and friends. I knew boys from church and when I was 17, I joined the church youth group which was mixed.

In those 6 years between the ages of 11 and 17, things changed in the world of boys and girls and I think I largely missed it (probably had my nose in a book!). At 11, the boys and girls played together at my school and it was highly competitive. At 17, I still thought that's what happened and I slipped into it fairly easily. But there weren't any girls playing by the same rules I was. I was still competing with boys and thinking it was an even ground. It didn't take me too long to realise they had huger body bulk and strength to me - I only had to get hurt a few times to work that out. What took me a lot longer to work out is that there wasn't an equal playing field. We weren't playing the same games. Girls were out to snare guys...I just wasn't sure what you did with them when you caught them.

I was pretty useless at the sex game and the flirting. I don't think I worked it out for a long time... actually, I've never worked it out. And that's why I write sex. I'm trying to work out what makes a girl and a guy 'click'. What makes sex fun? What makes the intensity? What keeps you going back for more after rejections? Why is an act that's so awkward, so intensely fascinating? Why is sex with one person so much different to sex with another? What's the chemistry that 'makes' it happen? What did I miss in those 6 years?

I think that's why I write sex...because I just don't 'get' it.


  1. Love this line!
    "Why is an act that's so awkward, so intensely fascinating?"

    God if we knew that, we'd be millionaires. If you consider it too long, heck it's downright ungainly...

  2. This line!
    Why is an act that's so awkward, so intensely fascinating?

    If we knew that, we'd be millionaires Miss Cate! You're right, the act itself is downright ungainly!

    1. Heee heee glad you liked that, Lily!

      I often wonder how anyone worked out what to do with know, it's just kind of odd to imagine anyone saying, let's see where this might fit.

      Anyway, it fascinates me, as weird as it is.

      Have a good weekend!

      Cate xo